On and off college campuses all across the country, fall means football, and that means it’s time to tailgate. But how do you tailgate sober when so many parties are all about getting primed before the game?
Of course, the ideal scenario is to find a sober tailgate. According to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, avoiding the people, places and things associated with using is one of the five most important rules of recovery.1
Many support groups and community and campus organizations sponsor alcohol-free tailgating events during the season, and these can be a great opportunity to meet other non-users. If you can’t locate a sober party, consider holding your own. If you look around, you’ll probably find plenty of people looking to tailgate sober.
But if you’re heading out to a family, work or school tailgate where alcohol will be served, staying sober can pose a challenge, especially in early recovery. Here are some tips to help you tailgate sober.
Planning ahead for a high-risk situation is crucial for getting through it sober. Spend a little time before the party in mindful reflection. Remember why you chose to enter recovery. Think about your goals and aspirations for the future. Walk yourself through the tailgate, visualizing how you’ll decline a drink, how you might feel while others are drinking and what you can do to have a good time without needing alcohol to do it.
BYO Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Bring your own drinks to sip on in case the non-alcoholic selections are limited. Having your own tasty beverages helps keep your body hydrated, your hands occupied and your tailgate sober.
Tailgate Sober with a Supportive Friend
A strong support system is one of the four dimensions of successful recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.2 Invite a sober, supportive friend to the party to help you stay accountable, and vice versa. It’s easier to say no when you don’t feel like you’re the only one abstaining.
Find a Distraction
Instead of dwelling on not drinking, engage with other people at the party to divert your attention away from yourself. Try to find common ground with others. If the partygoers are playing a game, get in on the action. Find other things to focus on so that you don’t even think about using.
Have an Out
If you feel you’re beginning to struggle, or you’re no longer enjoying yourself, have an out. If it’s an informal tailgate, you can probably just leave, and no one will be the wiser. But if your absence will be conspicuous, plan ahead so that if you’re not up for sticking it out, getting away doesn’t cause problems for you.
Have Someone You Can Call
If you don’t have a way out of the tailgate party, but you feel you need a little extra support, have someone you can call. A sponsor, supportive family member or sober friend can help you get through a rough patch during the party.
Stepping away for a few minutes can help you regain perspective if you find your resolve slipping. Take a walk, and use the techniques you’ve learned in your support group or treatment program to reduce stress and cravings and get back on track.
Staying sober through high-risk situations of any kind requires planning, mindfulness and vigilance. But the more you get through these situations with your sobriety intact, the more confidence you’ll gain, and the easier it will become down the road.